Palmy Days (1931)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Palmy Days is an engagingly loopy Eddie Cantor vehicle. It's certainly entertaining, although many of the jokes will cause a wince and the plot is just so much hooey -- complicated hooey, too. There are enough "high concept" ideas here -- Cantor as an efficiency expert, a gang of thieves masquerading as fortune telling mystics, a romantic misunderstanding, a bakery manned by vivacious young women, etc. -- for two or three films. That Palmy doesn't really take full advantage of any of them works to its detriment, but it's still such a good natured film that most viewers won't really mind. Watching Cantor sawing off edges of his desk (ostensibly so that people won't be able to sit or lean on his desk and waste his time) or breaking into song whenever he's nervous makes up for the many problems with the screenplay. As usual, Cantor can't resist donning blackface for one of his songs. While it tends to jolt and jar modern viewers, at least when Cantor is in blackface in Palmy he's still being Cantor (as opposed to suddenly adopting a stereotypical "black" personality). Palmy also benefits from the presence of Charlotte Greenwood, a gifted Amazon of a comedienne whose gifts were rarely well utilized onscreen. Acting like something of a cross between Marjorie Main and Helen Broderick, but much warmer, Greenwood is a great foil for Cantor (and even gets to nonchalantly throw in a couple of her trademark high kicks). And choreographer Busby Berkeley demonstrates that, even this early in his career, he could create some dazzling images. Palmy is terribly slight, but there's a good deal to enjoy.